Charlotte Mason once said that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
If I want anything for my children’s education, it’s that it be for life. I want their lives—who they are and what they love—to be shaped by what they learn. And I want them to always approach life in God’s great world with wide-eyed wonder.
If I’ve learned anything while homeschooling, it’s that education requires discipline. Discipline to do what we don’t feel like doing, to persevere, to build good habits.
But atmosphere? That seems less tangible, less practical. And exactly how does it educate our kids?
Again, Charlotte Mason’s words: “we should take into account the educational value of [the child’s] natural home atmosphere.”
Taking Ms. Mason’s word for it, our home atmosphere is a tool in teaching our children. But what makes up a home atmosphere?
I heard someone recently put it like this: “what does your home smell like?”
Literally, how do our homes smell? Like baking cookies, hand-picked wildflowers, too much bubble bath? Or maybe like burned remains of child’s attempt to make dinner by herself, a beloved dog who needs a bath, a fresh coat of paint on an old piece of furniture?
What do our homes taste like? How do they sound? How do they look?
These tangibles make up the atmosphere of our homes. We daily incarnate what we value—in our words, music, meals, birthday gifts, jokes, decorating, science experiments. In our responses to others, in our responses to our own sin.
For better or worse, this atmosphere goes far—maybe farther than actual instruction—in teaching our children what we believe about the world. Our kids smell, see, hear, touch, and taste what we value.
Not all of the smells mentioned above are pleasant. But weird smells are a feature of a fruitful life, not necessarily a bug. Life in a house full of people and pets is often a messy, smelly business. And then we clean up. 🙂
So, we try to fill our homes with what is true, good, and beautiful because God loves what is true, good, and beautiful. We pursue kindness and gentleness. We cheerfully do the work He’s put before us.
Or maybe not. Maybe today, it’s sin that has caused a big, fat mess—only it’s not a mess on the floor, but in our hearts or in a relationship.
By God’s grace, that can be cleaned up too. We can quickly humble ourselves, confess, repent, and make it right—before the mess gets bigger. And thankfully, God can change even a sinful mess into an opportunity for good.
A Benediction for Our Homes
May our homes be filled with sounds of worship to the Lord and joyful, if loud, children. May they be filled with the smell of God’s provision, made tangible by loving hands and eaten with thankful hearts.
May our homes be full of beauty that inspires our little ones to make beautiful things for His glory. May we have eyes to see the messes of fruitfulness and respond with patience and gratitude. And eyes to see the messes of sin and respond with true repentance.
May God bless our efforts to make a home atmosphere that tells the truth about who He is and what He’s done for us.
Local mamas: we’d love for you to join us next month at a Moms Encouragement Night. A panel of experienced homeschool moms will share wisdom and encouragement around the topic of home atmosphere. For more info and to sign up, contact us here with a message to that effect!